Although I’d always wanted to visit Mexico to explore the many Aztec and Mayan ruins, along with the stunning coastline, the idea of Mexico City itself didn’t really inspire me. Until I got there. Jam-packed with massive playgrounds, eclectic street art and plenty of delicious cafes and restaurants, it’s a sprawling city that’s great to explore with kids.
Here are some of the best things to see if you’re travelling to Mexico City with younger kids.
1. Take a boat trip on Xochimilco
Xochimilco is an area in the southeast of Mexico City that’s established on the shore of Lake Xochimilco, which dates back to the pre-colonial period. It’s best known for its canals, which are the remains of an extensive canal system that today features colourful gondola-like boats known as trajineras. Xochimilco is now a World Heritage Site and makes a fantastic day trip with kids (and adults!) to soak up the unique atmosphere. Visit on the weekend to see this place come alive with tourists and locals jumping on board the boats to enjoy traditional Mexican food and drinks while listening to mariachi bands.
The canals get so busy at peak times that the boats don’t move, but thankfully, plenty of people are watching to keep everyone occupied. We booked a tour with an amazing guide with games, food and drinks for about two hours. The kids loved making homemade micheladas (alcohol-free!), probably due to the generous amounts of candies provided to decorate the drinks (there’s no denying Mexicans have a sweet tooth!). We also had a lot of fun playing Mexican bingo. All up, it was a fantastic way to spend a Saturday afternoon!
2. Roma Norte/La Condesa
These neighbourhoods are both fantastic options to base yourself in if you’re spending a few days in Mexico City. There are plenty of parks, trendy cafes and restaurants all within walking distance and it’s also beautiful and green with wide streets and stunning old buildings. Everything is easy to walk to, so you can stroll and explore safely. If I had to pick between the two, I’d opt for La Condesa with kids, as the parks were a little nicer.
Coyoacán is another borough in Mexico City that’s a popular place for families to visit on weekends and offers a beautiful area to explore by foot. Featuring two large plazas, beautiful coloured buildings, one of the three oldest parish churches in Mexico City, plenty of cafes and a fantastic artisan market, the area is probably most famous for the Frida Kahlo Museum. Buy your tickets in advance and line up at your allocated time to explore the former house of Frida Kahlo, which is home to numerous works of art and offers a glimpse into her fascinating life. Remember to purchase a photography pass when buying your tickets to allow you to take photos inside the museum.
4. Centro Historico
No significant city visit is ever complete without visiting the city centre! We visited on a Saturday, and it was teeming with people. We enjoyed strolling around and taking in the sights of the main square (including the world’s most enormous Mexican flag!). There were still a few restrictions in place due to Covid when we were there, which meant we couldn’t access some of the sites we wanted, but we did manage to see most things.
5. Plaza Garibaldi
This is the place to head if you want to see and hear a real-life mariachi band in Mexico! Located within a 15-minute walk of Centro Historico, this plaza boasts a plethora of mariachi bands, all waiting for tourists to arrive to serenade with a song or two! Although it can be trickier with younger kids, try to visit early evening if possible for a better atmosphere and to ensure you’re not the only tourist there. Unless, of course, you love the attention of being surrounded by 10 mariachi bands at once (like one tourist we spied). In which case, head there early afternoon, and you’ll have all the attention you can get! Just bring plenty of cash for tips!
Although this is technically outside Mexico City, it’s worth including. There are plenty of tours you can jump on, or you can head to the central bus station (Norte Bus Station) and grab a very cheap and easy bus ride outside the city to drop you off right outside the entrance. Although it’s a big site, it’s easily walkable, even with little ones. The site was designed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in the 1980s, and it’s easy to see why. Around 400 A.D., it was the most powerful and influential city in the area.
7. Lucha Libre (Wrestling)
A highlight for any aspiring wrestler (whether you’re four years old or 40 years old), the family night at Lucha Libre is massively fun. The family session starts at 5.30pm instead of the regular 7.30pm sessions and typically only runs on set days of the week (usually weekends). We purchased our tickets from Ticketmaster ahead of time, though I think we could have gotten tickets on the day and the kids’ tickets were probably far cheaper than what we actually paid. Still, given we were only there for a short time, we didn’t want to miss out, so it was worth having everything locked in.
8. Shopping at the artisan markets
The artisan markets in Mexico offer plenty for little ones to admire, though keeping their hands to themselves can be challenging! The bright colours, eclectic prints and skulls make for a fascinating stroll through the narrow winding stalls. The city’s largest and most well-known market is La Ciudadela Market, which is a short walk from the main historical centre. Some stalls have prices marked, though there is haggling to be had. Nevertheless, the quality is impressive, with beautiful throws, pillow covers and clothing items featuring bright colours, patterns and traditional Mexican artwork.
9. Explore the many parks
I hadn’t anticipated how many parks with playgrounds there would be in Mexico City and just how amazing those playgrounds would be! Some of the playgrounds we stumbled on were the largest I’ve ever seen, with some very cool slides, swings, monkey bars and activities for the kids to do for a wide range of ages. Check out google maps to find a nearby park to wherever you’re staying – you’re sure to find some good options, particularly if you’re in La Condesa. For a massive park with lots to see an do, including a zoo, a large lake and a few playgrouns, visit Bosque de Chapultepec. It’s one of the biggest parks in a major city in the western hemisphere and is well worth visiting.
10. Eat all the food
Finally, my biggest tip is to eat as much food as possible in Mexico City! Not only are there plenty of options available, but the price and quality are like nowhere else you’ll find in Mexico. In addition, the street food offers so much variety, with tacos starting at around 20c jam-packed with a range of tasty options.
My all-time favourite was the chilaquiles, a traditional breakfast dish (that you can eat all day) made from corn tortillas and topped with various toppings. Think nachos, but better! Try them at Chillakillers, a funky little spot not far from La Condesa. If the portions aren’t enough to get you excited (you can get a doggy bag!), the decor is worth the visit, with skeletons, brightly coloured murals and cute little table cloths. And the staff are incredibly welcoming, offering lots of recommendations.
If you have room for dessert (unlikely), then a visit to El Moro is in order! The original churros of Mexico, established in 1933 by a Spanish immigrant the churros are delicious, evidenced by the long queues at the original store in the city centre. However, if you’re staying in the Roma area, there’s a smaller (and less busy) store where the churros taste just as delicious.
Whatever your plans in Mexico City, it’s a surprisingly very kid-friendly city with plenty of safe areas to explore on foot or via Uber. Enjoy!!